Prognosfruit: expected hard fruit harvests for 2015

The apple and pear harvest for the 2015-2016 season is not going to match last year's top yields, in either Europe or Belgium. However, the yields can be rated as normal. In the case of apples, there is a switch away from Jonagold and Jonagored towards other varieties, while Conference remains Belgium's undisputed number one pear.

• Belgium: 19% fewer apples and 7% fewer pears
• Picking began later than last year, but at a normal time
• Normal fruit size
• Top quality and good keeping properties

A normal harvest in Europe
The European harvest forecasts this year were set out at the Prognosfruit international congress in Merano in Italy. A reasonably normal harvest is anticipated. Compared against the average over the last three years, production of apples rises 7% to 11.9 million tonnes and pears by 6% to 2.4 million tonnes. Compared against last year's record harvest, the figures show a fall of 5% and 4% respectively.
One striking feature is the sharp drop in apple production in Germany (-21%). The apple harvest in Italy is also expected to be lower, while apple production in Poland remains unchanged. When it comes to pears, Europe is expecting some 2.3 million tonnes, a slight drop of 3% compared against the record harvest in 2014/2015, but 6% more than the three-year average. Across Europe, pear production has been at roughly the same level for years. The share occupied by Conference in total pear production has risen in recent years to 40%.

Belgium: increasing interest in new varieties of apples
The initial harvest estimates indicate that Belgium will be producing 19% fewer apples and 7% fewer pears. Apple production in the 2015/2016 season is estimated at 258,461 tonnes, 19% below the exceptional harvest in 2014/2015. The national area for the 2015/2016 season is 16,205 hectares of hard fruit. The area under apples is 6,865 hectares, falling below 7,000 hectares for the first time in years. The decline continues and amounts to 209 hectares (3% compared to 2014/2015).
Jonagold and variations remain the top apples, at 107,840 tonnes. But Jonagold and Jonagored (and variations) are being grown less, while interest in new, different varieties can be seen from the fact that the area has increased by 139 hectares (+20%) and production by about 50%. Compared against the record 2014/2015 harvest, the yield is lower for virtually all varieties.

Belgium leads the field with Conference
A lower yield than in 2014/2015 (record harvest) is also expected for pears in 2015/2016. The pear harvest is estimated at 347,000 tonnes, or 7% less than last year. The area under pears has increased from 9,080 hectares in 2014/2015 to 9,340 hectares in 2015/2016, an increase of 3%. Belgium leads the field in the production of Conference pears on the European market: one third of European Conference pears are produced in Belgium. The forecast production is 314,000 tonnes. Interest in new varieties is clear to see, because the area has increased from 315 hectares in 2014/2015 to 360 hectares in 2015/2016.

Top quality
The two main reasons behind a top-quality harvest are the favourable conditions in the spring and the pleasant summer weather. The harvest is expected to start at the normal time. Harvesting of Conference began in early September, and growers have been picking Jonagold since mid-September.

Positive development
The Russian trade embargo has had serious consequences for the European fruit sector, and these show no signs of going away. The Belgian fruit sector has been able to make use of European support programmes to limit the damage caused by this embargo as far as possible. Because this has been only partially successful, the Belgian fruit sector will be continuing to search for new sales opportunities and further modernisation of fruit farms in the years ahead. One positive factor is the general trend towards higher consumption. High product quality and intensive promotional activities are 'bearing fruit'.

Source: Verbond van Belgische Tuinbouwcoöperaties (VBT) (Belgian Association of Horticultural Cooperatives) and Werkgroep Oogstraming Fruit (Fruit Harvest Forecasting Working Group).

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